Whilst it’s true that summer bodies are made in winter, that doesn’t mean that they are made in the gym. With long queues to use the equipment, the inescapable smell of sweat, and the costly monthly membership, it’s easy to be put off your journey to achieve the ultimate abs before you’ve even started. Not to mention the fact that endless stomach crunches can seem a little bit dull, and won’t actually help you to achieve those sculpted abs if you are not incorporating them in to a much tougher fitness routine.
It’s no surprise then that an ever-increasing number of Brits are swapping sit ups for cycling shorts, and realising that cycling can do wonders for your fitness and physique.
So how do you cycle your way to a six pack? It’s easier than you think…
Maximise Effort to Maximise Fat Burn
You might already enjoy a leisurely bike ride on Sunday afternoons, or commute to work on your bike. Whilst this is a great start, you will need to commit to high intensity rides, where you can really pick up the pace. Cycling burns an average of 650 calories per hour so you can increase the number of calories and the amount of fat you burn by giving maximum effort and making every second in the saddle count. If you’re going to achieve those monster abs, you need to make sure you get rid of that belly fat first! The best way to achieve this on your bike is by incorporating cycling in to your High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Find a nice open road where you can really go hell for leather for a short burst, then bring it back down to a slower cycling pace. Rotating between a few seconds of high intensity and a few minutes of gentle recovery time increases your resting metabolic rate, so that your body keeps on burning fat for up to 24 hours after you have stopped exercising. Plan in up to 3 of these sessions a week and it won’t be long before you notice your endurance levels going through the roof.
Tuck It In
It’s easy to completely forget about your upper body when you’re cycling, so adjust your posture, and make sure your core is working as hard as your legs. The simple act of engaging your core muscles can have a noticeable effect on the muscle tone of your abdominal wall. Activating your stomach muscles is also key in protecting your lower back. The hollowing action that is brought about by tightening your stomach muscles has been proven to strengthen your transverse abdominis. Toning these muscles helps to support the lumbar spine and can help ease back pain. If you are doing it right, then it should feel like you are tucking in your lower abdominal muscles whilst sitting in the saddle. The important thing is that you bring your awareness to your abs whilst cycling rather than forgetting about them completely!
Modify Your Commute
If you’re used to commuting to and from work on your bike, then you can build a little intensity in to your daily routine by modifying your route. Avoid completely flat roads and take minor detours so you can tackle a few more hills on your usual journey. This will ensure you are increasingly working your abdominal muscles at every opportunity, and it will be great practice for those maximum effort fat-burning cycle sessions.
It’s not rocket science – when you stand up whilst cycling, keeping your balance is more difficult. This is because your muscles have to work harder to keep you upright without the support of the saddle. This includes the muscles around your core, so make sure you work this in to your cycling workout. For extra intensity then try standing up whilst cycling uphill. You’ll need to make sure your bike is light and stable in order to do this successfully. Carbon fibre road bikes are often the best option as the durable frame can handle the increased intensity. Just be aware of busy roads if you are attempting this for the first time, as it can feel like you have less control over the bike when you ride standing up!
Go Off Road
For an even tougher cycling ab workout, you need to go off road. The uneven ground will make it harder to keep you balance and stay stable, so you will need to activate your stomach muscles. In a similar way to interval training, off-road cycling also burns more calories, making it the best option for burning fat and building muscle. From steep hills to muddy terrain, off road cycling is not just great for your stomach muscles, but has the added benefit of providing a total body workout. You will inevitably have to shift your weight around to stay balanced, which will require you to activate your core muscles much more frequently than on a tarmacked road. It’s also a great opportunity to explore your local area and uncover hidden beauty spots, which brings a greater level of enjoyment to your workout. That being said, it’s worth doing a little research to find off-road cycling recommendations local to you, and have a rough idea of your route before you set off!
Following these tips will help improve your fitness, lose body fat and tone abdominal muscles. However, achieving a six pack is no mean feat so be prepared for hard work. It almost goes without saying that you will have to accompany any physical activity with a clean diet. Protein is extremely important when building muscle as it boosts your metabolic rate and keeps you fuller for longer. There is no fast track way to achieving perfectly sculpted abs, but if you’re keen to see results faster, then it’s worth combining a few different approaches. Check out our post on 5 ways to sculpt killer six pack abs for more information. It won’t happen overnight, but when it does, you’ll know you’ve earnt it!